I read this brilliant article in today’s guardian online about a doctors account of a night in A&E and with all the recent bad press about A&E waiting times, I was reminded of a blog a good friend of mine wrote about what it is like being a newly qualified nurse in the NHS. Her story meant so much to me and both articles really emphasise why I love working at Beyond as we do everything we can to both encourage and enable change and provide personal strength and resources to the amazing healthcare professionals who work within it! Thank you to Natalie Louise Riley for allowing us to publish your story here

This was written by Natalie Louise Riley from experiences 10 years ago when she was 21 year old and a newly qualified nurse…

I’m Natalie, a qualified nurse of nearly 12 years. I’m currently working in a specialist role within urology which I have done for the past 5 years. I wrote the below in response to nurses being under  scrutiny for ‘lacking compassion’ as I was finding more and more irresponsible journalism damaging our reputation and wanted to show the reality. I wish nursing education included assertiveness and confidence building as part of its foundations as I think many healthcare professionals are subject to problems with burnout and depression. I really feel like this might better equip them for their future career.

Start the 12 hour day feeling positive, happy, ready to take on the world. I arrive at work. One of our trained nurses has been sent to another ‘heavier’ ward. I’m the only trained nurse for twelve patients, seven are post major surgery, five are medical outliers. Elderly frail patients that need all care, a lady with dementia who is terrified and keeps wandering trying to work out where on earth she is.

A patient suddenly crashes….vasovagal. My heart rate soars. Anxiety. Such overwhelming responsibility. All I want to do even as a trained nurse is go and wash my patients, chat happily to the lovely man in bed 3 whilst I help him shave. Who is he? Who was he? What was his job? How is he feeling? He must be scared, lonely, miss his family.

But here’s the bed manager…. “Any beds? Why have you not started your discharges yet? Inform me immediately when you have a bed.” Oh god, the catheter bag in bay 1 looks quite claret… Yes, one of my post op patients is bleeding! Bleep a doctor, quick.

Got a feeling this isn’t going to be such a good day. People need toileting, turns are needed. I want to wash my patients and brush hair and help put hand cream on and I can’t. Prepare the patient for theatre again he needs diathermy…..

The medical team are here and they want a nurse for ward round. “Sorry I’m busy with my patients”

“Then I’ll report you!”

Fine. Report me. I’ll just have to read the notes later.

A post op patient wants a cigarette. Despite my advise and a slight row off he goes. And promptly passes out outside the doors of the hospital. He gets escorted back in… “Nurse!  Why on earth is your patient smoking outside?!”

My lovely lady with dementia has messed herself. She needs cleaning up. She’s confused and frightened and consequently aggressive. She won’t allow me to clean her. I try everything I know. She becomes hysterical…..what do I do?! The doctor suggests a sedative. She hasn’t consented. We have to call her family. I feel such a failure.

Drugs round is late. iv antibiotics are due. Obs need doing. A cannula needs replacing. Finally get to start washing my patients, giving this care is my favourite part of the day. Because I care, and I know everyone here is soneone’s Mum, Dad, Husband, Wife. Everyone means something to someone and so they mean something to me.

Elderly frail patient in bed 3 is not well at all. His breathing is shallow and laboured. He looks gaunt and drawn. He was expected to have a hospice bed but it hasn’t become available. I think he may pass away on the ward. I need to call the family ASAP. I sponge his mouth with some water, stroke his forehead and whisper that everything is going to be alright. My heart feels so heavy and full of sadness for him. He passes away at 12.10 peacefully. I want to wash him and brush his hair, carry out last offices as a sign of respect for this man I never got to know who has departed us.

But my post op man is back from his theatre slot. He’s not bleeding any more. But he needs regular obs and recovery nurse needs to hand over to me. Plus I feel a bit thirsty and could do with a wee. Can’t quite think straight.

Bed manager is back. She scares me. “Why have you not informed us that there’s a bed free?”

“Because it’s not a free bed. A patient has just passed away and I haven’t even done last offices yet.”

“We need that bed ASAP, there’s trolleys queuing up on A&E”

Not her fault. She has a job to do. But she seems to have built up a harsh defence against the pressures of her job. She seems not to care. She must care in some way, surely or why would she be here? Maybe this is her defence mechanism. Her way of coping with the sadness of the job…

Visiting time. A stream of anxious, sad, worried, concerned and even some very angry relatives. I’d be angry too I suppose. A man’s son swears at me… he wants to talk to the doctor straight away about why his dad bled and went back to theatre. Obs due. Drugs due. Handover due. I’m so tired. I feel beaten. Defeated. I have nothing left inside me to give. I’m spent.

Nothing for my poor family but leftover scraps of me. I go into the sluice room and have a little cry. This is tough. This is not what I imagined being a nurse to be. You are expected to be so sensitive and caring but yet without developing the thickest of skins you’ll survive not one month in charge of a ward.


I’m newly qualified. I’m 21 years old……….. I’m not cut out for this!!